I’ve found that for the most part, my classmates who came into j-school knowing what it was and what it offered; what it could teach them and who would be teaching it; those who were open to criticism and different ways of thinking and writing and seeing — they were the people who left school satisfied with their investment. I developed that maturity by having some real-world experience and perspective, both in life and in journalism, before I decided to return to school. But I had several classmates just out of undergrad who were focused and talented, and they too reaped the benefits.

Columbia j-school isn’t perfect. It costs too much, as does nearly every institution of higher education in this country. That piece of paper you get at the end is not a magic pass into the halls of your desired workplace at your desired salary. You may not get to take every single class or work with every professor you want. You are expected to work hard, sometimes harder than humanly possible. But the informed consumer — a good reporter — knows this before spending the money to attend. The uninformed one writes a bitter essay that blames others for her problems and, despite having an Ivy League degree in journalism, misses the real story.

* Rao tells me she met that professor at a convention when Rao was 19 (before j-school) and they’ve been Facebook friends ever since.


Sara Morrison is a former assistant editor at CJR. Follow her on Twitter @saramorrison.